Diarrhoea and constipation

Diarrhoea and constipation… Get your digestive system back on track as quickly as possible
What is diarrhea?

Diarrhoea is when you pass loose or watery stools more than three times a day. It affects almost everyone from time to time and is usually nothing to worry about. A common cause in both children and adults is gastroenteritis, an infection of the bowel that may be caused by:

  • A virus, such as a norovirus or rotavirus
  • Bacteria, which is often found in contaminated food
  • A parasite

Bouts of diarrhoea in adults can also be brought on by anxiety, drinking too much coffee or as a side effect of a medication.

What’s the best way to treat it?
  • Eat small, light meals, such as toast or crackers, as soon as you can, or feel like it
  • Avoid dehydration by taking small sips of water
  • You can also purchase rehydration sachets which replace salt and glucose, along with other important minerals, that you may lose during an attack of diarrhoea
What is constipation?

Constipation is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It can mean that you’re not passing stools regularly or you’re unable to completely empty your bowels. It can also cause your stools to be hard, lumpy, large or small.

Many people experience constipation for a short time only, but for others constipation can be a long-term condition that can cause pain and discomfort and affect quality of life. It's often difficult to identify the causes, but there are a number of things that increase the risk of constipation, including:

  • Not eating enough fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and cereals
  • A change in your diet or lifestyle
  • Ignoring the urge to go to the toilet
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Anxiety or depression
What’s the best way to treat it?

Treatment for constipation depends on the cause and how long you’ve been suffering from the condition, but it could be as simple as changing your diet and lifestyle.

  • Increase your daily intake of fibre- high fibre foods include fruit, vegetables, cereals, nuts, oats
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get more exercise- at least 30minutes of physical exercise every day. This may be a brisk walk
  • Never ignore the urge to go to the toilet

If you’ve been suffering from constipation for a number of days, you can also consider taking a laxative to help you pass stools. There are different types and each one has a different effect on your digestive system, but do remember to drink plenty of fluids while you’re taking them:

  • Bulk forming laxative. This should be your first choice of treatment. It works by helping your stools retain fluid, so they’re less likely to dry out, and should become softer and easier to pass. You can expect the treatment to work within two to three days
  • Osmotic laxative, eg lactulose. Your next choice if you’re still suffering from constipation after taking a bulk orming laxative. This increases the amount of fluid in your bowels, which then helps stimulate your body to pass stools
  • Stimulant laxative, eg senna. If you’re still suffering, even though your stools are soft, this type of laxative may help. It stimulates the muscles that line the digestive tract, helping them to move stools along the large intestine. The treatment usually works within 6 to 12hrs, though some people may experience slight stomach cramps
For more information about the best treatments for you just ask your pharmacy team at your Local LloydsPharmacy.